Lewis Pugh to swim in freezing Antarctic in just Speedos in Ross Sea conservation plea

Lewis Pugh, a maritime lawyer from London, plans to do five successive one kilometer swims in the Antarctic, where the water temperature will be (minus) -1.7C and killer whales and aggressive leopard seals roam, in a plea to make the Ross Sea a protected area.

Mr. Pugh’s nickname is the “Human Polar Bear”, because he was the first person to swim to the North Pole.

Over a period of five weeks, he will do five 1km swims. Four of them will be further south than the current world record for the most southerly swim, currently held by Mr. Pugh.

One would expect him to wear perhaps a wet/dry suit for the ordeal. However, Mr. Pugh says he will undertake the five swims wearing just his Speedos.

Lewis Pugh

At the end of each swim, Mr. Pugh will probably need treatment for hypothermia. (Image: United Nations Environment Programme)

Mr. Pugh, who became a UN Environment Programme’s Patron for Oceans in June 2013, is urging leaders to turn the Ross Sea into an MPA (marine protected area). Specifically, his message is aimed at the CCAMLR (Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources), the European Union and twenty-four nations responsible for creating marine protected areas in the Antarctic.

The Ross Sea, a largely untouched area, needs to be protected from human activity, he insists.


The Ross Sea

The Ross Sea, discovered by James Ross in 1841, is a deep bay of the Southern Ocean in Antarctica. It is home to at least ten mammal species, ninety-five species of fish, more than 1,000 invertebrate species and about half a dozen species of birds.

Some bird species that nest in or near the Ross Sea include the emperor penguin, Adélie penguin, south polar skua, snow petrel and Antarctic petrel.

Mammals include the killer whale, Antarctic minke whale, leopard seal, crabeater seal, and Weddell seal.

The crystal krill, Antarctic krill, Antarctic silverfish and Antarctic toothfish also swim in the waters of the Ross Sea.

Many of the species that live in the Ross Sea, which is comparatively pollution free, cannot be found elsewhere on Earth.

Five swims in Antarctica

The five swims will be done over a period of 3 weeks. (Image: Lewis Pugh’s website)

Mr. Pugh, who has swum in the Seven Seas of Europe and the Middle East, as well as a lake on Mount Everest, would like to see the establishment of a vast no-take zone. It would be the largest protected area on the planet, bigger than the areas France, Germany and the UK combined.

In an interview with The Independent, Mr. Pugh said:

“The Ross Sea is one of the most incredible places on the planet. It has one of the most pristine eco-systems left on the earth. Scientists say it is crucial because it helps us understand how to protect the earth because it is the least impacted by humans.”

“I have thought about wearing protective gear, but I just think it is better to go to world leaders and say: ‘I’ve just come back from the Ross Sea and undertaken five swims because I feel so passionately about this area and I’m urging to you to set up a protected areas.’”

Swimming in Speedos opens doors

Mr. Pugh believes that apart from showing integrity, courage and commitment, swimming in Speedos also gives him access to world leaders – it opens doors, he says.

On Tuesday, he leaves for the Antarctic with a team of people that includes a doctor.

His challenge will definitely be dangerous, not only because of the very low temperatures he will be exposing his body to, but also due to some of the local wildlife, including aggressive leopard seals and killer whales.

Regarding potentially dangerous animals, Mr. Pugh said:

“I’d just get out the water. I’m not going to try and negotiate with a leopard seal and I’d have no chance with a killer whale! One of the most important things in selecting the site is to make sure there are no penguins because killer whales and leopard seals are hunting penguins, so you don’t want to be mistaken for a giant one.”

Citation: “Five swims in Antarctica for 1 Reason,” Lewis Pugh’s website.